May 30, 2003
MERC Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Advisory Committee Members Present:

Gary Anderson, John Abenstein, Jim Davis, Dan Foley, Tim Gaspar, Roger Harms, Robert Howe, Larry Kuusisto, Dawn Ludwig, Kathy Meyerle, Carl Patow, Marilyn Speedie, Jim Toscano, Cathy Wisner.

Interested Parties Present:

Carol Backstrom, Roger Balagot, Ben Boornstein, David Hagen, David Knowlan, Deborah Mayland-Poyzer, Gerhardt Meier, Anna Thompson.

Department of Health Staff Present:

Scott Leitz, Diane Reger, Diane Rydrych, Carol Woolverton.

Department of Human Services Staff Present:

Richard Tester.

I. Introductory Remarks – Catherine Wisner, MERC Advisory Committee Vice Chair

Ms. Wisner started the meeting with an introduction of herself to the interested parties in attendance.  Louis Ling, Chair, was not able to attend the meeting.

II. Status of MERC Advisory Committee – Carol Woolverton, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Health

Ms. Woolverton, who is a newly appointed assistant commissioner at the Department of Health, gave the committee and interested parties a brief overview of her background.  She then thanked the committee for all of their past work on ensuring the ongoing existence and success of MERC. 

Ms. Woolverton reminded the committee that the MERC Advisory Committee, like most statutorily-mandated advisory bodies, is scheduled to sunset at the end of each biennium unless the Department decides to extend its existence.  The Department decided that all committees that were not directly involved in the distribution of funds would sunset on June 30, 2003; as the MERC Advisory Committee serves an advisory role rather than being directly involved in funding decisions, this means that the committee will cease to exist as a statutorily mandated committee on June 30, 2003.  However, Ms. Woolverton assured members and interested parties that the committee does not need to dissolve completely.  She encouraged the committee to meet whenever needed to continue to discuss issues related to medical education and to support continued funding for MERC and related activities.  She also informed members that if they wished to nominate new members as openings occur, they should send a note to MERC staff since the formal application process through the office of the Secretary of State will no longer be necessary.

Mr. Toscano reminded Ms. Woolverton that the MERC Advisory Committee has not historically devoted much time to the research component of its mission, and requested that either the existing committee members or a new group be convened to explore the role that MERC could play in funding medical research in Minnesota.

III. Update on 2003 Legislative Session – Diane Rydrych

Ms. Rydrych distributed a handout summarizing the 2003 regular and special legislative sessions.  Ms. Rydrych informed the committee that the legislature made several significant changes to the MERC distribution formula, including the establishment of a 0.5 FTE cutoff below which sites are not eligible for funding through MERC/PMAP, the establishment of a ‘10% holdback’ fund within MERC that sponsoring institutions can use to fund any eligible site or site with fewer than 0.5 FTEs based on their own methodology, revision to the process of calculating per-trainee costs for medical residents, and consolidating the MERC and PMAP/PGAMC distributions into one annual distribution with a combined 67%/33% distribution formula. (Handout is attached.) 

Mr. Leitz told the committee that the writers of the bill might have set the 0.5 FTE cutoff to direct more funding to sites that were accepting more students, and therefore, more responsibility for training.  The writers felt that the smaller sites were receiving amounts that were more work for the sponsoring institution’s administration than the grant was worth due to the small amounts being distributed to small sites.  Ms. Ludwig voiced concerns about the elimination of small sites and how this may affect sites accepting students from smaller programs, along with concerns that it may be more difficult for her students to be accepted at clinics where funding will be eliminated.  She stated that it should be up to the sponsoring institution to determine at what point the administrative burden related to small sites outweighs the benefit to those sites.   Mr. Leitz reminded her of the 10% discretionary fund that will be available next year, which may be used at the discretion of the sponsoring institution for sites that would otherwise be ineligible due to the FTE cutoff. 

One member indicated that he thought that the entire distribution should be made discretionary so that sponsoring institutions could decide how to distribute the funds to their own training sites.  MERC staff indicated that this would require a change in statute.

IV. Update on 2003 MERC Federal Match – Richard Tester

Mr. Tester, of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, discussed the process of receiving federal matching funds on 2003 tobacco endowment earnings and other funds earmarked for MERC.  He discussed the possibility of not receiving a full match this year, as DHS may have less room under the upper payment limit than originally thought, limiting the amount of MERC funds that can be matched.  While the exact amount available for match is not known at this time, DHS should have more information within the next week, and the final MERC 2003 distribution amounts will be provided to the Department of Health and the MERC Advisory Committee at that time.

The committee discussed what should be done with unmatched funds if a full match is not available – historically, unmatched funds have been rolled forward into the next year with the assumption that they will be matched at that time.  The committee decided that if a full match is not received, the money that did not receive the match should still be distributed in the current fiscal year rather than being carried forward in an effort to get a match under another mechanism in the following year. 

V. Update on 2003 MERC Distribution Process – Diane Reger

Ms. Reger informed the committee that until a final distribution number is given to MERC staff, the distribution is on hold.  The preliminary distribution that was sent to members on May 7 reflected a full federal match.  Once the amount of the federal match is known, the distribution will be recalculated and contracts will be sent to the sponsoring institutions.  Ms. Reger indicated that quick turnaround on the contracts is essential in order for the grant payments to be made.  When all signed contracts are returned to MERC staff, MDH will cut checks and the distribution and reports will be sent to sponsoring institutions.

VI. Update on 2003 PMAP Distribution Distributions – Diane Rydrych

Ms. Rydrych handed out a copy of the PMAP distribution that was awarded in February 2003.  She told the committee that although the MERC and PMAP distributions will be combined in the next fiscal year, the PMAP distribution that was set to go out in August/September will still take place using the current formula.  Going forward from that point on, the distributions will be combined and will likely take place next June/July in accordance with the language passed in the 2003 Legislative session.

VII. Dental Innovations Grants Update – Diane Rydrych

Ms. Rydrych provided a brief update on the status of the dental innovations grants.  An announcement of the availability of the Request for Proposals was posted in the May 27th State Register.  Proposals are due on Friday, July 18th.  Qualifying proposals will be reviewed by a committee composed of MDH and DHS staff and dental professionals.  In FY2003, MDH received seven proposals and funded five projects for a total of roughly $800,000.

VIII. Future Meeting Dates

It was decided that the MERC committee would continue to meet approximately twice a year.  Ms. Reger proposed potential meeting dates for 2003/2004.  A member suggested that she e-mail the dates to the committee to get consensus on scheduling.  Ms. Reger said that she would send information out in the next week and communicate the results.

Since the meeting, dates were selected based on members’ availability.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday, June 25, 2004

Both meetings will be held from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Veteran’s Building.

Updated Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:25PM